The border remains a very active, and theologically rich area, as the Church attempts to respond to the systemic violence born from the crises of immigration, femicide, and the “war on drugs.”
Attending la misa will remain a highlight of my year in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. However, I felt more like a tourist than a pilgrim. I had come to the fence not just to pray, but to witness theology in the making. The border mass is an example of how the church should be - on the front lines and alongside the oppressed. Two congregations meetings in one of the most inhospitable places; they literally celebrated the Eucharist through a fence. I not only listened to Spanish and English voices articulate a prophetic call for justice the midst of chaos, I was able to literally watch theology at play. As the bishop spoke, a family “reunited” through the fence. I doubt they even heard the homily, designed for them, that called for peace, justice and reconciliation at the border. They saw an opportunity to visit without interference from border patrol. Those around the family watched as a mother and her daughter came to the US side of the fence. A man approached and then motioned to other family members who then made their way through the crowd and to the front of the Mexico side of the fence. They used the small space in the fence to trade memories, stories, and home cooked Mexican food. Watching this exchange fostered enough questions about God to fuel of lifetime of theological exploration.
A part of me will always feel like a tourist to the border. There is an urgency to this year; pressure to attend as many events as possible because I know that my time here is limited. However, I would prefer to assume the role as a quasi-tourist. It would be disingenuous to pretend I can fully understand the complexities of life here. I will never know what it is like to have to share an intimate family reunion at the expense of a bi-national Mass. Could I believe in a God of justice if I was a mother trying to raise two daughters on either side of a fence knowing that one would have to fight the odds of the 8 murders a day?
Nevertheless, even if I am a tourist, I am comfortable here. The border is familiar. I am once again back on sacred ground.